The words Wanderlust, Vagabonding and Wanderer gets thrown about alot in the travel community to define a life of long-term traveling. However, there is a new term and understanding to describe this community of migrants: That is, “Existential migration.”
It was through a fellow traveler that I discovered the work of Dr Madison, and his research on migrants who choose to leave ones homeland to become a foreigner. He came up with this new concept and defines it as “Existential Migration.”
Dr Greg Madison explains: “Unlike economic migration, simple wanderlust, exile, or variations of forced migration, ‘existential migration’ is conceived as a chosen attempt to express something fundamental about existence by leaving one’s homeland and becoming a foreigner”
Dr Madison interviewed a large number of individuals who chose to leave home to become a foreigner. His study generated consistent themes including the importance of independence, the need to live fully, the need for freedom, the value of experiences of difference and foreignness as a stimulus to personal awareness.
Among these migrants there is a marked preference for the strange and foreign and a consistent contempt for the conventional and easy life of the settled community.
He interviews an educated successful business man who has lived in many countries. “Alan” reveals his long-standing dilemma regarding the attraction and repulsion of belonging and settling in one place.
As I read more about his research, I could see that existential migration clearly described my life. At a young age I felt the urge to travel and to live overseas.
I have a wonderful family and friends, but the urge for adventure and for newness was too great.
So at the age of 22 I left my home country to travel – almost twenty years later I am still doing the same. I thrived on being away from the home comforts and away from the familiar. The thrill of not knowing what was around the corner was evident.
I needed to live consciously, and not automatically. I would return home for a while and as soon as I saw myself settling I would relax. But with the exotic being magnetic, the impulse for adventure was triggered again.
I’m never more comfortable than when I am out of my element, away from routine and familiar surroundings.
Like many other “existential migrants,” slipping into the mundane and habitual awakens the urge to live as a foreigner.
Dr Madisons’ concept also challenges aspects of psychological research into acculturation and relocation stress. For instance, when I relocate I am invigorated, rather than stressed. I become alive with the thought of experiencing a new culture or location.
But even for ‘existential migrants’ the day may come when their process becomes one of settling rather than migrating. Personally, as I get older I do see myself settling more. I believe at that point, you have to strike a balance. That is, having a home base with breaks traveling aboard – to become invigorated and alive and away from the familiar.
Finally there is an explanation to why people always have to pack up and go!
In a few days I will have a guest post from a traveler who is in her 60’ and still traveling. This amazing woman is currently teaching in Colombia, and her future plans include living in Egypt.